InfoPath Update: Preview and VS Toolkit Announced

The InfoPath update is finally official!

Note that the update is still a "Preview" release. But in addition to the preview, there is also a Visual Studio InfoPath toolkit. This is possible because the update now supports managed code, developers are no longer limited to the object models accessible to MSIE.

The introduction of .NET Framework support to InfoPath is great news, and corrects the basic problem many people had embracing an app that was supposed to be cutting edge, and yet still used the old XML DOM.

Another welcome feature is “better schema support, including built-in support for schema changes.” For example, if while coding directly against a SQL Server the schema of the source tables changed, it would choke InfoPath and you would literally be expected to start from scratch to accomodate the change. Unpacking the files in the .XSN, chaning the scheema manually and repacking the solution was not a supported way to do things. If I'm reading this right, this release cures that headache.

“Increased support for rules and roles for declarative business logic” is another relief. A few places would like to use InfoPath as a smart-client forms tool to take some load off IIS, but the lack of an API into windows authentication was a hassle. The recommended solutions were to either build a web service or buy BizTalk to handle the middle tier. Access to the Framework should provide authentication info (which should still be confirmed through a web service during the submit) and role-based rules to enable/disable controls in a form are useful features.

Is InfoPath still playing catch-up to Access or VB6? I'm interested to hear how heavily others are investing in this young app.

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